July 1st marks the birthday of my late father, Atty. Jaime “Jimmy” G. Dizon. He would have been 85 this year. Papa, as we lovingly called him, died seven years ago on September 5, 2012 from complications stemming from myelodyplastic anemia, a condition where his bone marrow ceased to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Prior to succumbing to the rare disease, Papa loved going out and dining with our family – my mom, Norma, me and my wife, Shawie, and with my Maryland, USA-based brother Arnel and my then Singapore-based sister Barbara, when they’re in the country.
Papa loved being with his grandchildren (my kids), Genevie Marie, who we nicknamed “Vette”, and Chevy Martin. Often times, Chevy would sit on Papa’s lap while we’re in the car driving to our numerous destinations. When we invite my parents to join us on a long drive, an out-of-town test drive or event, or to try a new restaurant, Papa would always make sure that the kids are coming, or else he’d rather not go. We’ve traveled together as a family as far north as Ilocos Norte and as far south as Davao City.
Only Drives Automatic
During our travels together, Papa would always ask me if I do not get confused with the controls of all the different vehicles I’ve been driving. I would often catch him looking at me with amazement on how I can easily adapt to cars with manual and automatic transmissions, how I can drive cars with floor-shift, column-shift, or rotary-shift, or how I can easily transition from four wheels to two, or from small cars to large vans and SUVs. You see, Papa could only drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission so he finds it amazing that I can drive anything. He learned to drive with their family car, a 1952 Chevrolet Styline Deluxe 2-door sedan with a 2-speed Power Glide automatic transmission. He used to jest that cars with manual transmissions and clutch pedals are for people with three feet.
My grandfather, Hon. Fernando Dizon, Sr. was the Deputy Budget Commissioner of the Philippines, and he provided his family with items that were considered luxuries at that time. My father and his brothers were quite popular and well-liked in their youth because they were good-looking and were the first in their neighborhood to have a television and an automobile. When they got the 1952 Chevy as a slightly-used car in 1955, Papa became a car nut. He would work around their house, cleaning, sweeping and washing dishes, just so he could borrow the car and drive around. My parents got married in March 1960 and Papa bought the 1952 Chevy from his parents when my grandpa bought a new Chevy II Nova 4-door sedan in 1963.
One At A Time
The 1952 Chevrolet Styline Deluxe became Papa’s first car and our first family car. It brought me and my siblings home from the hospital after we were born. Mama said that the Chevy was Navy Blue with a white top when my brother Arnel was born. (Coincidentally, when he grew up, my brother joined the US Navy.) Papa had the Chevy painted pink when my sister Barbara was born in 1967. He also passed the Lawyer’s Bar exams that year. We lovingly named the ’52 Chevy “Chug-a-Boom” as a term of endearment. When I was a small child, I’d lie down on the rear parcel shelf, gaze out the rear window, look up towards the stars as the car was moving, and pretend that I was an astronaut in a spaceship. Every morning, I would start the car and warm it up before Papa would drive off to work. When I was eight, I drove it forward for a few meters while waiting for Papa to come out of the house but cops in a passing police car thought the car was moving by itself because they couldn’t see my head above the dash. I could only imagine the explanation Papa gave to those surprised policemen…
We had some fond memories of our travels with old Chug-a-Boom but by the late ’70s, the car was showing its age. In 1979, our family had a slight financial setback and Papa couldn’t afford to maintain, repair or operate the ’52 Chevy anymore so Mama sold it as junk for a measly P1,000. I saw a tear rolling down Papa’s cheek as his beloved ’52 Chevy was being towed away. I made a promise to my 14-year-old self that I would buy him the same car when I grew up. Our family finances eventually improved and Papa bought a 1976 Ford Cortina 2000E Automatic a few months later. Mama bought him a 1993 Nissan Sentra B13 1600 Super Saloon A/T to replace the Cortina while a 1996 Sentra B14 Series III Super Saloon A/T replaced the B13 after a few years.
Practical and Supportive
Papa had the 1952 Chevy for more than 20 years, the 1976 Cortina for 17 years, the 1993 Sentra for 4 years, and his last car, the 1996 Sentra for 12 years. He always bought his cars used and pays for them in cash. He never bought a new car through financing because as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he believed that if you have to amortize it, you really can’t afford it. In 1996, I found a 1952 Chevrolet Belair 2-door hardtop with a Power Glide automatic that was an upmarket version of his old Chevy. I told Papa that I wanted to buy it for him so he can have his old car back. He smiled at me and then said that he’d rather have his Nissan Sentra because it can sit in traffic all day without overheating and with the cold aircon on. He said that he could never do those things with his old Chevy. It was then I realized that what I wanted for him may not be what he wants for himself.
Despite his conservative approach towards cars, Papa never prevented me from indulging in my automotive passion and even supported me. He allowed me to tinker with the family Ford Cortina until I learned to to work on cars properly. In 1988 while I was in my graduating year at college, he bought me my first car, a 1977 Volkswagen Brasilia 2-door hatchback. In 1992, Mama sold the Brasilia to my cousin because I wasn’t using it anymore since my job afforded me a company car, a 1990 Nissan Sentra 1.6 SGX. In 1993, I bought a 6-cylinder 1974 Chevrolet Nova 2-door sedan with bench seats and a column shift 3-speed automatic because it reminded me of our old ’52 Chevy. Papa only drove my Nova once. Although he scolded me a little when I took home a 1971 Chevrolet Camaro, he eventually approved of it, especially after he saw the Camaro fully-restored and displayed at the 1998 Trans Sport Show.
In December 2010, Papa lent me P400,000 to buy the shares of my business partners who wanted to get out of our publishing company. Aside from being my father, friend and traveling companion, Papa also became my legal consultant and financial adviser. In February 2012, my company saved enough to pay off our P400,000 loan to Papa but instead of accepting our payment, he instructed me to reinvest it in the business, prompting Shawie and I to open our first Quick Pro motorcycle repair and maintenance shop in Mandaluyong. After Papa saw the immense viability of the business, he joked, “Kapag mayaman ka na, ibili mo na lang ako ng Jaguar (When you strike it rich, just buy me a Jaguar)”, referring to a 2005 Jaguar X-Type he rode in during one of my test drives.
Unfortunately, I will never be able to buy that Jaguar for him. By June, Papa was admitted into Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Sta. Mesa, Manila and, by September, he was gone.
Seven years after his death, I still miss him, as I guess everybody in our family does. Papa and I became even closer when we started going on road trips together with Mama, Shawie, Vette and Chevy. Now that he’s no longer with us, I can only reminisce of our time together. It’s just that whenever I see a 1952 Chevrolet Styline Deluxe, a white 1976 Ford Cortina 2000E, a Flamingo Red 1993 Nissan Sentra B13 Super Saloon, a Satin Silver 1996 Nissan Sentra B14 Super Saloon, or a Radiance Red 2005 Jaguar X-Type, they remind me of my much-missed father.
Happy Birthday, Papa. Please continue to pray for us and guide us from heaven.